July 28, 2020 • Sarah Schwartz
Coming of Age
Jubiliana, a home based invitation business grows — and helps its clients navigate COVID-19
Jubiliana was founded by two longtime New Jersey friends, Alana Amaya and Julie Rabinowitz, who first got acquainted in 1994. Through the years, they discussed launching various design-oriented businesses together, but the West Orange business crystallized when both of their oldest children were preparing for the Bar Mitzvahs.
“We realized there was a need for simple and affordable, yet unique invitations in the Mitzvah industry,” recalled Amaya. “We spent six months exploring and designing our first line, creating branding, and researching the industry. We officially launched in the fall of 2018 and got our first client the following week.”
Jubiliana grew through positive word-of-mouth, noted Rabinowitz. “We started this business by first designing for friends, and that turned into their friends, and referrals.”
Beyond the invitation and coordinates, the duo has a wide range of offerings for client events, mostly Bar and Bat Mitzvahs and Sweet Sixteens. “We do place cards, table cards, sign-in boards, signs, menus and centerpiece designs, as well as both ready-to-go and custom logos,” described Rabinowitz.
With so many offerings, the duo can tailor something perfect for each celebrant. Total spend varies based on quantity, paper stock, and what extras are desired. Pricing begins at $300 for 100 invitations on standard 120 lb. paper. For an invitation suite consisting of response card, party card and thank-you, prices begin at $850/100.
While each celebration varies as much as the individual, there’s a certain continuity among orders. “The majority of our clients will order invitations and party cards, which detail the celebratory events after the Mitzvah service. Most clients order matching thank-yous as well,” Amaya observed. “Half our clients choose to have online responses, while the other half prefer the good, old-fashioned snail mail response card, which we prefer, too!”
(Home-based) Business Plan
Rabinowitz said that meeting in clients’ homes expedites the design process; if they’re not local, a Zoom or FaceTime meeting can substitute. “We find they’re most comfortable in their own setting, and it helps to have the parents and child at the initial meeting so everyone’s on the same page. We love the personal interaction, and we’ve found teens definitely have opinions! Our invitations have a whole new dimension when someone can see them in person, and feel the different paper stocks versus just seeing them on our website.”
First, the client reviews the Jubiliana invitation book, choosing several potentials. Since details are customizable, they ask clients to focus on invitation layout and style. “If they have a vision for something we don’t have, we’ll do a custom design at an additional charge,” explained Amaya. “We also try to hone in initially on a layout, color palette, and pieces required for their invitation suite.”
At that point, clients receive at least two versions of the invitation; most clients narrow down to a favorite option within a few rounds. Then they move forward with that as well as any coordinates. “We provide our clients with a digital proof before sending it to our printer,” commented Rabinowitz.
“Typically the design process takes about two weeks if everything runs smoothly; printing requires another one to two weeks. We take pride in inspecting everything with an eagle eye, to be sure there are no printing issues, and that every envelope is addressed correctly.”
Both enjoy creating designs that reflect the distinctive personality of every 21st-century celebrant. “Our offerings are modern and unique,” underlined Amaya. “The days of using one script font for an invitation with no graphics is long gone. Today’s teen wants an invitation that speaks to them, makes them smile, or reminds them of something they love. That’s why we started our pattern on the back of each invitation. We have over 75 patterns we can recolor to match their invitations. It’s so fun to see the teens ponder and explore the different patterns. We love that part!”
While there are endless variables to each ceremony and party, Amaya and Rabinowitz have noticed several overriding design trends clients tend to be drawn to. “Girls have been gravitating towards watercolor backgrounds, as well as floral themes, mandalas and hamsas. Pastel colors and ombres have been very popular, “Rabinowitz detailed., “Our most popular designs for boys have distressed or grungy backgrounds as well as simple, yet modern and bold typography. Our logos for both boys and girls really run the gamut, which we love. We have designed everything from a medieval themed logo to one with an avocado theme — one of our personal favorites!”
Their business model allows them to respond quickly to emerging themes, added Amaya. “As trends change quickly so do our designs. We try to add new collections to our core designs once or twice a year. We also research upcoming trends a lot. Because we thrive on creating custom designs, once we get some inspiration or input from our clients, we roll with it! Often it’s our custom creations that become the next hot designs.”
Getting the Word Out
The two typically participate in three to four Mitzvah consumer shows a year, which has benefitted their business in several ways, pointed out Rabinowitz. “We’ve had a lot of success with the Mitzvah Market Showcase, held in several venues in New Jersey and New York. Additionally, we do smaller shows at local synagogues as well, primarily in New Jersey for now.”
Their participation has provided valuable connections, Amaya emphasized. “We’ve been fortunate enough to meet amazing photographers, party planners and florists — and we all work together on various events. (With) party planners, we help design the event logo as well as any event decor. Typically a theme is chosen by the client, and the party planner will work with us to dictate the elements needed for the event, such as table cards, menus and signage.”
Social media has also played a huge role in building their small business. “Instagram and Facebook are huge outlets for us, and since there are only two of us managing all of our business details, it can be a lot to create online social campaigns as well,” stated Rabinowitz.
Their small team has sometimes presented a challenge, continued Amaya, but in the end it makes them stronger. “Although we’ve been best friends for over 25 years, it wasn’t until we started Jubilana that we learned each other’s business strengths and weaknesses. When we first started, we would share many of the same tasks, which we soon found was not a good use of our time. We now try to divide up our jobs and tasks – both design and business related.”
When it comes to a Five Year Plan, Rabinowitz said they have one of those too. “We’d love to be the ‘Go-To’ Mitzvah and event designer in our area – the company everyone thinks of first when they need invitations. We’re also striving to branch out to other regions across the country. While we love to meet our clients in person, we’re fortunate that in this digital age, we can easily send proofs to clients anywhere.”
The Coronavirus has been devastating to many an invitationer, but Amaya and Rabinowitz are weathering the storm so far, although the impact has been personal. Rabinowitz’ son’s Bar Mitzvah was scheduled March 21 — “just as everything began to unravel here in NJ, but prior to being quarantined,” she recollected. “We rescheduled his service and party two times within a week, as we were given new news and social distancing recommendations started happening. We had a virtual Bar Mitzvah service at our temple with our Rabbi and Cantor — practicing social distancing! — and just our family of five. Despite not having friends and family there, the Rabbi and Cantor did an excellent job of making the service seem as normal and special as a “normal” service. The party was canceled — I’m not sure we’ll be rescheduling. A vacation sounds really nice after all this is over!”
In the meantime, they’re seeing a mix of ways their clients are handling their own events. “Those whose Mitzvahs are before fall have either rescheduled their parties, but plan to have a virtual Mitzvah service, or are waiting it out to see what happens,” Amaya said. “We have offered to create change-of-date cards, invitation reprints, postcards or inserts at a very discounted price to accommodate this unfortunate situation.”
Amaya and Rabinowitz are looking ahead to the other side, finished Rabinowitz. “Most families are really uncertain as far as how to plan for previously scheduled events, as well as for upcoming events — even as far out as the end of the year. Many are holding off until they feel it is safe to reschedule. We think that as soon as things start getting back to normal, people will really want to celebrate big! So we’re looking forward to helping them in any way possible to make their event worth the wait!”